There's no argument that the safest place for the baby is in their own seat. Things like clear air turbulence and the basic laws of physics can turn a cute and cuddly 15 lb. infant into a dangerous projectile. Often buying the baby their own seat is more comfortable for everyone, not just baby. If you decide to bring a car seat along, you child is probably used to sleeping there, plus you have the added benefit of not having to hold him/her for 2,3...10 hours. It's really a win, win. That said, I understand the financial constraints that many families face today and some simply can't afford to buy that extra seat when traveling domestically. Trust me, I get it- I've even decided to lap-child my own son on occasion (although he did end up getting his own seat for free). The "financial hardship" argument is huge part of why the FAA hasn't changed the rule on lap-childing; they fear if they do it will force more people to take the road, and statistically speaking, flying in a parents arms is still safer than driving in a car seat.
So that's the argument behind the story. I know any discussion relating to traveling with children is an invitation to get flamed and people always have strong opinions on the subject. Beyond what I've shared above, I don't really care to "soap-box" further on the issue. I'm obviously a big fan of buying baby his own seat, but as I mentioned above there were also times when I decided not to. What you choose to do as a parent is your right, and others should respect that without passing judgement- that of course is in a perfect world. Anyway, as the disclaimer goes on just about everything I write here regarding travel with children- take it or leave it; I'm simply sharing my experiences so perhaps others out there are able to learn from them.
The first time we lap-childed baby CJ was during his first flight from SMF to SFO on the way to Maui. We had purchased an extra ticket, but a standard size rear facing infant carrier does not fit in the EMB-120 Brasilia (well, it sorta does, but at a really weird angle which is beyond design specifications). Dad held the baby for the short 20-minute flight and we strapped down the infant carrier, without infant, as best we could.
The second time we lap-childed was on that same trip but on the way home from Maui. Our LAX-SMF flight was oversold, so we volunteered our son's seat and took a $200 VDB (voluntary denied boarding) voucher. Because of this no one got bumped, and since it was the last flight of the day, it also meant nobody had to spend the night in Los Angeles. I then filed for a refund for the unused portion of the ticket. We came out almost $300 ahead on the short 1-hour flight. It also worked to our advantage because we didn't originally have seats together. On a CRJ there are 3 oxygen masks on the right side of the plane (2 on the left) so since the gate agent had to move some people around anyway because of FAA regulation, she just sat us all together. I know there is "no price on safety", but the money we got back almost covered the cost baby CJ having his own seat for rest of the trip. While I wouldn't advocate "plan on selling your seat on the rare occasion your flight is oversold", things like this do happen from time to time so why not take advantage of it. Also didn't hurt that baby still got the miles on this segment. We're only talking a few hundred miles here, but he'll take what he can get.
|My infant "lap child" on an empty flight to JAC. E+ on a CRJ-700.|
On all our other trips we have booked the baby his own seat (including our upcoming Singapore-Bali-India adventure), but that hasn't been exactly easy either. If you read my Breaking up with United post, you get a sense of all the different ways they've split our reservation, trouble with upgrades, and even more trouble with seat assignments. In some cases traveling with CJ in his own ticketed seat was a hassle and it meant still having to talk to a gate agent, just like I did when he traveled "in my lap". In the end I guess that is more a bad reflection on the airline vs. the practice of buying a separate ticket for your kiddo. Apparently, not all airlines value the extra business though. Similarly on Singapore Airlines, their policy is to not give us the bassinet location in the bulkhead because we bought that extra ticket. I guess their rationale is to assign it to someone "more in need" of the extra space. In that case I'm not about to pay 10% (in cash) of a full-fare international Y ticket on the "world's leading airline" just to sit there, but I do plan on calling back 48-hours prior to our departure to try and score that coveted first row, if no one else has claimed it by then. Anyway, all said and done, I still think buying baby their own seat is the best thing to do (in most cases) and we will continue to do so (most of the time) until he turns 2.
If you do plan on bringing a car seat on board, make sure it is FAA approved. Most are and will have a sticker on the side indicating that they are approved for use on aircraft. Some airlines (Singapore) are very up-tight about this and they will check. I also recommend getting a reusable gate-check bag (like this one), in case you run in to any problems (the seat not fitting), decide to VDB, or fly lap child with them and can't get the extra seat. The bag is a good way to make sure their stuff stays clean in case you do have to check it.